Girls soccer: St. Joseph advances to Class L final

The St. Joseph High girls soccer team defeated Pomperaug High of Southbury, 3-2, in the semifinals of the Class L state tournament on Tuesday night at Blue and Gold Stadium in Newtown. With the victory, the top-seeded Cadets (21-1) set up a showdown with second-seeded Suffield High on Saturday, Nov. 21, in the state final.

“It could’ve been, five, six, seven, nothing,” St. Joseph High head coach Jack Nogueira said. “That’s part of soccer. You have to capitalize on your chances. We capitalized three times, it could’ve been a lot more. I’m proud of my girls. They come to St. Joe’s because they want to win championships and now we have an opportunity to win championships.”

Despite creating a bevy of scoring chances, it was tough sledding for St. Joseph against feisty No. 20 seed Pomperaug (9-8-2), which grabbed a 1-0 edge looking to spring its third straight upset of the playoffs.

“They did what they had to do,” Nogueira said of the Panthers. “I thought if they tried to play a wide-open game, they wouldn’t have gotten the result they got. They did a tremendous job defending. I think they did a tremendous job on setpieces. They’re a good team.”

Jenna Bike responded with a pair of goals for St. Joseph, including the game-winning marker with 36:56 left in the second half to propel the Cadets into Saturday’s final.

That pushed the St. Joseph lead to 3-1, but, unfazed, Pomperaug pulled back a goal with 18:45 remaining when Scarlet Broderick smashed home a freekick from 45 yards out.

Bike had a chance to put the game when the Cadets were awarded their second penalty kick of the night with 9:56 left. Leah Lewis was hauled down inside the 18, but Bike, who converted a PK in the first half, dragged her shot wide of the post.

The Cadets’ defense then walled Pomperaug off across the final 10 minutes, limiting their chances in front of keeper Veronica O’Rourke.

Pomperaug had surged ahead on Madelyn Sumple’s strike at 28:29 of the first half. Semple took a corner from the left flag that was headed away by Samantha Lello of St. Joseph. The ball then found its way back to Semple, who lashed a shot by O’Rourke to the near post to stake the Panthers to the 1-0 advantage.

Pomperaug conceded a penalty by fouling Lindsey Savko with 6:25 left in the first half, with Bike belting a high shot over keeper Elyssa Kipperman.

St. Joseph then went ahead for good in the 39th minute.

Savko ripped a shot from distance that caught the inside of the crossbar and ricocheted down over the goal line for a 2-1 Cadet margin.

Bike’s second goal of the game at the start of the second half gave St. Joseph some insurance and it ended up being the difference when Pomperaug capitalized on another dead-ball situation.

“They just wanted to win this game, they wanted to be in the finals,” Nogueira said.

St. Joseph defeated Suffield, 2-1, to win the Class LL title in 2013.